Source Code: Your daily look at what matters in tech.

next-upnext upauthorJanko RoettgersNoneDo you know what's coming up next in the world of tech and entertainment? Get Janko Roettgers' newsletter every Thursday.9147dfd6b1
×

Get access to Protocol

Your information will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy

I’m already a subscriber
Power

Disney+ reaches 86.8 million paying subscribers and the price will go up in March

Disney is still committed to theatrical release windows, but execs signaled that could change.

Disney+ reaches 86.8 million paying subscribers and the price will go up in March

Star will be available as part of Disney+ in Western Europe, Canada and New Zealand starting in February.

Image: Disney

Disney's streaming service continues to grow at a rapid pace: The streaming service now has 86.8 million paying subscribers, Disney CEO Bob Chapek announced at the company's annual investor day on Thursday. Disney also announced a new Star-branded streaming service that is being integrated into Disney+ in some territories, and a slight price increase: Disney+ will cost $7.99, up from $6.99, starting next March. Pricing in other territories will also increase.

Star will be available as part of Disney+ in Western Europe, Canada and New Zealand starting in February. Star will offer a number of Disney shows and movies currently available to U.S. audiences on Hulu; consumers will have to unlock the content because it includes R-rated titles and other content that stands out from the family-friendly Disney+ fare.

Star won't be part of Disney+ everywhere: The company will be making a standalone Star+ service available in Latin America. Disney is adopting the brand from India, where it acquired Hotstar last year, and used it as a key driver for Disney+ adoption. One-third of all Disney+ subscribers are currently located in India, said Disney International DTC Chairman Rebecca Campbell: "Our launches around the world have been a key factor to subscriber growth to date."

Disney executives also used the event to give investors an update on the company's other streaming services. Hulu now has 38.8 million subscribers, including 4 million who pay for the company's live TV service. ESPN+ reached 11.5 million subscribers by early December.

This puts Disney years ahead of its own forecasts for its direct-to-consumer businesses. When Disney first announced plans to launch Disney+, the company predicted that it would reach between 60 million and 90 million subscribers by 2024. The company had planned to reach 40 million to 60 million subscribers for Hulu by 2024, as well as 8 million to 12 million for ESPN+. On Thursday, Disney updated its Disney+ guidance; the company is now expecting the service to have 230 million to 260 million subscribers by 2024.

The latest number drop also means that Disney+ added more than 13 million subscribers over the past two months. Disney executives revealed last month that the service had reached 73.7 million subscribers on Oct. 3, which marked the end of its fiscal fourth quarter.

Disney executives said Thursday that the company was prioritizing its streaming services over other areas of its business going forward. As part of this strategy, Disney committed to the release of a number of original Marvel, "Star Wars" and Disney/Pixar series exclusively on Disney+ over the coming years. In addition, Disney will release 15 live action and animated Disney and Pixar feature films on the service.

However, Disney stopped short of a day-and-date movie release strategy like the one Warner Bros. plans to implement in 2021. WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar announced last week that the studio would be releasing all of its movies on HBO Max on the day of their theater premiere — an announcement that caught theater chains like AMC by surprise.

Disney, on the other hand, is still nominally committed to the theatrical window, with some exceptions; the company will release the live-action movie "Raya and the Last Dragon" as a paid premium title on Disney+ when it reaches theaters next March, much like it did with "Mulan" last summer.

Disney media and entertainment distribution chairman Kareem Daniel signaled that the company could adopt similar models for other titles down the road. The company had the ability to "quickly reevaluate" its release strategy, Daniel said, adding that it would ultimately do what was best for consumers.

Update: This article was updated at 5:30 p.m. PT to include more information about guidance and pricing.

Power

Activision Blizzard scrambles to repair its toxic image

Blizzard President J. Allen Brack is the first executive to depart amid the sexual harassment crisis.

Activision Blizzard doesn't seem committed to lasting change.

Photo: Allen J. Schaben/Getty Images

As Activision Blizzard's workplace crisis rages on into its third week, the company is taking measures to try to calm the storm — to little avail. On Tuesday, Blizzard President J. Allen Brack, who took the reins at the developer responsible for World of Warcraft back in 2018, resigned. He's to be replaced by executives Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra, who will co-lead the studio in a power-sharing agreement some believe further solidifies CEO Bobby Kotick's control over the subsidiary.

Nowhere in Blizzard's statement about Brack's departure does it mention California's explosive sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit at the heart of the saga. The lawsuit, filed last month, resulted last week in a 500-person walkout at Blizzard's headquarters in Irvine. (Among the attendees was none other than Ybarra, the new studio co-head.)

Keep Reading Show less
Nick Statt
Nick Statt is Protocol's video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at nstatt@protocol.com.

What comes to mind when you think of AI? In the past, it might have been the Turing test, a sci-fi character or IBM's Deep Blue-defeating chess champion Garry Kasparov. Today, instead of copying human intelligence, we're seeing immense progress made in using AI to unobtrusively simplify and enrich our own intelligence and experiences. Natural language processing, modern encrypted security solutions, advanced perception and imaging capabilities, next-generation data management and logistics, and automotive assistance are some of the many ways AI is quietly yet unmistakably driving some of the latest advancements inside our phones, PCs, cars and other crucial 21st century devices. And the combination of 5G and AI is enabling a world with distributed intelligence where AI processing is happening on devices and in the cloud.

Keep Reading Show less
Alex Katouzian
Alex Katouzian currently serves as senior vice president and general manager of the Mobile, Compute and Infrastructure (MCI) Business Unit at Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. In this role, Katouzian is responsible for the profit, loss and strategy of the MCI BU, which includes business lines for Mobile Handset Products and Application Processor Technologies, 4G and 5G Mobile Broadband for embedded applications, Small and Macro Cells, Modem Technologies, Compute products across multiple OS’, eXtended Reality and AI Edge Cloud products.
Protocol | Workplace

Alabama Amazon workers will likely get a second union vote

An NLRB judge said that Amazon "usurped" the NLRB by pushing for a mailbox to be installed in front of its facility, and also that the company violated laws that protect workers from monitoring of their behavior during union elections.

An NLRB judge ruled that Amazon has violated union election rules

Image: Amazon

Bessemer, Alabama warehouse workers will likely get a second union vote because of Amazon's efforts to have a USPS ballot box installed just outside of the Bessemer warehouse facility during the mail-in vote, as well as other violations of union vote rules, according to an NLRB ruling published Tuesday morning.

While union organizers, represented by the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, lost the first vote by more than a 2:1 margin, a second election will be scheduled and held unless Amazon successfully appeals the ruling. Though Amazon is the country's second-largest private employer, no unionization effort at the company has ever been successful.

Keep Reading Show less
Anna Kramer

Anna Kramer is a reporter at Protocol (Twitter: @ anna_c_kramer, email: akramer@protocol.com), where she writes about labor and workplace issues. Prior to joining the team, she covered tech and small business for the San Francisco Chronicle and privacy for Bloomberg Law. She is a recent graduate of Brown University, where she studied International Relations and Arabic and wrote her senior thesis about surveillance tools and technological development in the Middle East.

Protocol | Fintech

Hippo’s plan to reinvent insurance: Fix homes before they break

Hippo, which is going public via a SPAC Tuesday, is using tech to prevent claims from happening.

Hippo CEO Assaf Wand wants to catch homeowners' losses before they happen.

Photo: Hippo

Home insurance, a $108 billion legacy industry that depends on troves of data, is a natural area for fintech companies to target.

That change is starting to happen — and one company is getting fresh capital to tackle the opportunity. Hippo, led by co-founder and CEO Assaf Wand, is going public today through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company Reinvest Technology Partners Z. The SPAC is run by LinkedIn co-founder and venture capitalist Reid Hoffman and Zynga founder Mark Pincus.

Keep Reading Show less
Tomio Geron

Tomio Geron ( @tomiogeron) is a San Francisco-based reporter covering fintech. He was previously a reporter and editor at The Wall Street Journal, covering venture capital and startups. Before that, he worked as a staff writer at Forbes, covering social media and venture capital, and also edited the Midas List of top tech investors. He has also worked at newspapers covering crime, courts, health and other topics. He can be reached at tgeron@protocol.com or tgeron@protonmail.com.

Protocol | Policy

Weak competition could hike your broadband bill by $96 a year

A new consumer survey says that those with the most choice in broadband providers are paying the least and reveals opinions about municipal broadband, internet access, affordability and more.

Broadband affordability has become an urgent issue during the pandemic.

Photo: John Schnobrich/Unsplash

American homes that have lots of choice in broadband providers can expect to pay around $8 less per month for internet than those who are locked into a single company, according to a new survey from Consumer Reports.

The median monthly bill for people with four or more broadband providers in their area was $67. It was $75 for those with only one choice, according to the survey of nearly 2,600 US residents. In a sign that consumers are thirsty for increased broadband access, the survey also suggested wide approval for municipal broadband programs run by local governments.

Keep Reading Show less
Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.

Latest Stories